Fear and Power in Ministry, and Five Encounters

I just recently did a short talk on Folk Islam. Not the center of my expertise, but our regular speaker was not able to make it. So I tried to position the talk from an area of greater strength for me… anthropological reflection. So I showed the classic cultural triangle.

Cultural triangle

“Western” Cultures are more interested in Guilt/Forgiveness. “Eastern Cultures are more focused on Shame/Honor, while (so-called) tribal cultures emphasize fear and power.

The orange region tends to be the cultural setting of most Christians, while the green region tends to be the cultural setting of many, but not necessarily all, of other “great religions.” This arguably includes Islam.

The range is dependent on three factors:

  • The Broader culture. An adherent to a religion in a broader culture that is, for example, honor-shame focused would tend to share that focus.
  • Religious Denomination. Denominations tend to needs in a specific region or range on the triangle. For example, I was raised Fundamentalist Christian. There is a strong proclivity toward Guilt and Forgiveness. Charismatic groups are more like the half-way point between Guilt/Forgiveness and Fear/Power.
  • Religious Class. Religions have Formal Religion and Folk Religion. Formal Religion tends to have “religious thinking”— with the adherence to formal doctrines and having the goal of serving spiritual powers. Folk Religion is more emotional rather than doctrinal, and tends towards “magical thinking”— seeking to manipulate (rather than be manipulated by) the spirit work. Folk Religion tends more toward the Fear/Power side of things while Formal Religion (at least of major, non-primal, religions) is away from that vertex of the triangle.

Since the vast majority of most religions are more folk practitioners than formal practitioners, one has to deal with the fear/power side of things more. I noted that for Folk Islam, Charismatics, and probably to a lesser extent Pentecostals, have an advantage over Conservative Evangelicals because their cultural center is closer on the cultural triangle.

That brought up the question, not surprisingly, as to what Conservative Evangelicals can do to reach Folk Muslims. Two bad solutions present themselves above. Becoming “charismatic” (unless of course one decides to based on personal theological reflection) as a means to connect more with Folk Islam seems a bad idea, as is becoming a Folk Christian. While the distance may be reduced, it is reduced by violating one’s own personal integrity. Another bad solution is syncretism… mixing one’s religion with the religion of another to make it more palatable. In my mind, Charles Kraft did that in taking the Fear-Power orientation and spirit world of West African religions and redefining it with Christian language. (Not everyone agrees.)

Some better solutions I believe are here (although they might sound a bit at times like the options above).:

  1.  Reduce cultural distance. Enculturation comes through interacting in and seeking to understand the behavioral and cognitive patterns of a culture. Removing distance culturally does not undo one’s beliefs, but it may broaden them. After all, Jesus was not only an atoning sacrifice, but was also a liberator, and bestower of honor. Understand what the people are most concerned about. They may not be most interested in Heaven. They may not be most interested in forgiveness. They may be most interested in family, community, health, and prosperity. One doesn’t necessarily have to redesign Christian doctrine to these different priorities, but it should speak prophetically to these concerns.
  2. Be open to the possibility that God will demonstrate Himself through power. I have little time for those who feel that God constantly does demonstrate Himself through power. It tends to lessen focus on God’s more common method of working through the weak, the foolish, and the vulnerable. It also puts pressure on people to “fake it,” label as from God what was not from God. However, God has power, and it seems like, especially in situations where the Gospel message is first entering a community, God will demonstrate power as a sign.
  3. Focus on symbols and rituals. Power is often seen in amulets, talismans, incantations, and various rituals. I don’t recommend totally embracing this worldview (wiping handkerchiefs on a religious icon, or getting them “blessed” by a televangelist) adding to local beliefs on contagious magic. But one can’t simply throw away these things and assume that there is not a vaccuum that will be filled by something else. Consider rituals. Rituals are tied to lifecycle, to crises, and to the calendar. In each case, they provide comfort in the providence of God (or god, or gods) that the future is secure. Rituals and symbols can and should be used to provide comfort, while helping them understand that true faith is more relational than magical.

Consider Five major “Encounters”

  • Power Encounter.  The interaction of the power of God with the powers (whether spiritual, natural, or human) within a people.
  • Truth Encounter.  The interaction of the truth of God with the false beliefs within a people
  • Allegiance Encounter.  The interaction of the call of God with the prioritizations/allegiances within a people.
  • Cultural Encounter.  The interaction of the Biblical perspective and behavioral patterns with the culture of a people.
  • Love Encounter.  The interaction of the Love of God with the selfish valuations within a people.

What should be done first? Love Encounter should always be first, I believe. To encounter a community demonstrating God’s love is always foundational. In folk religion, faith is more emotional than cognitive, so love encounter is even more critical.

But what is next? For some cultures it might be truth encounter… but for Folk Religionists, power encounter tied to cultural encounter hand-in-hand probably comes next. After all, folk religionists commonly are linked to their faith through their culture and their priority of power to overcome fear.

Next would be truth encounter. After a foundation of God’s love, and the bridges of God’s demonstrated concern and power translated through culture, God’s message must be made clear in the language, thought patterns, and priorities, of the people..

Ultimately, there must be a change of allegiance. They must choose to follow Christ or the old way. Of course, following Christ does not destroy all aspects of the old way, nor, on the other hand, should it syncretize it. It should transform and fulfill it.

An interesting thing to note is that the five encounters start and end with emotions. It starts with dealing with love and fear and ends with dealing with trust. The other two are more cognitive, truth and culture… dealing with symbols and meanings. None of the five are, strictly speaking, addressing behavior directly. Behavior is the natural fruit of spiritual transformation. Spirituality is the intersection of power and meaning (ideas and values). If behavior does not change, one must question the spiritual transformation.

Four “L”s from Missions History

Successful missionaries, mission programs, and mission movements in Christian history seem to have four characteristics. They don’t always have all three, there is a priority to them. Now some that have been numerically successful (such as the invasion and subsequent colonization and “Christianization” of South America) fail to meet the criteria of sound Christian missions, in my opinion. So maybe there is some bias up front. Decide for yourself.

1.  Letting Go of the Ministry.

  • The missionary is not focused on consolidating power, property, or people. He maintains a “light touch on the reins” as well as light touch on the reign.
  • The missionary is willing to share power, and let go of power.
  • The missionary prepares his people and organization for his temporary or permanent absence

2.  Localizing God’s Work.

  • Translate Scripture, songs, and liturgy into the local vernacular
  • Create an indigenous (3 or 4 self) church
  • Christians should be part of the culture (perhaps counter-culturally, but still part), not part of a different/foreign culture.

3.  Loving God’s Lost and Found

  • The missionary loves the people more than himself, and demonstrates more concern about their well-being than the well-being of his “own people.”
  • The love the missionary has for the people overflows the small cup of eternal destiny to all aspects of their lives as individuals and as a community.
  • The people understand, in some small way, the depth of God’s love for them through the love demonstrated by the missionary.

4.  Linking Up Partners for God’s Work

  • Training up local partners in the field
  • Developing and organizing organizations for training and mobilizing missionary partners.
  • Building and encouraging support back home for mission work.

I don’t find these to be equally weighted. Of these four the least important (although still important) is Letting Go. Power is intoxicating, and even good missionaries become addicted. It takes strength of godly character to be weak, to be vulnerable, to maintain limited control, to empower others.

The middle two are Localization and Linking Partners.  I am not sure which is more important. Both really are needed. These seems to be more important and there appear to me to be fewer exceptions— fewer examples of successful missions where there was not localization or where there is no development of people in the field or agency or home.

The most important appears to be Love. A lot of “sins” and failures appear to be overlooked by the people being ministered to where the love of God is identified in the self-sacrificial love that the missionary shows the people he works with.

For me, at least, these seem to be important aspects for training and evaluating new missionaries.

Ambivalent Reflections on Spiritual Warfare

Plate 22 of 22 for the Macklin Bible after Lou...
“SATAN BOUND” Plate 22 of 22 for the Macklin Bible after Loutherbourg. Bowyer Bible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often find myself on the side of downplaying “spiritual warfare” and “power encounter.” I see myself doing this not so much because I see these as purposeless. I have seen missionaries working in particularly difficult places coming down with horrible maladies. I am not sure I can simply chalk that up to stress and convergence disorder. They appear to have been drawn into a battlefield that they are challenged to survive, to say nothing of thrive. However, I find myself arguing against a certain Christ-paganism that has crept into the church and Christian mission. I don’t claim to be an expert in this area (and don’t plan to become an expert) but here are some thoughts I believe to find a healthy balance in Spiritual Warfare and Power Encounter for reflection.

1.  In Spiritual Warfare, the primary battle is with oneself. It has become popularized to externalize evil. We may talk about the spirit or demon of depression, lust, or hate. But really, Pogo (as written by Walt Kelly) was ironically correct when he said “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The Bible drama makes it clear that man sinned, man fell, man lives in a state of rebellion (warfare) with God. We need to be changed positionally, and renewed continually to be brought to where we are (at least on some level) at peace with God. Demons and Satan appear to have a fairly modest role in this, and much of that is obscured from us.

2.  In Spiritual Warfare, the secondary battle is with others. We not only sin (live in rebellion) but are also sinned against. Social Justice is not simply a nice thing for a Christian to work for, it is very much at the heart of spiritual warfare. Read the major and minor prophets and you will see how important social justice and challenging abuse of the poor, weak, and innocent is to God.

3.  In Spiritual Warfare, the heavenly/spirit realm cannot be discounted. As noted in Ephesians 6, the world we see is not the only world… we may live in rebellion, others may live in rebellion, but there is a grander story that we are part of, and we each have a part to play. Therefore, it is not correct to simply make our work to be only about self and other people.

4.  Our Ignorance of the battle in the heavenlies was intentional. God gave us lttle more than tiny snippets of information about the “spiritual” battle in the heavenlies. However, our primary  activity is focused in the here  and now. Our activity as Christians can be seen for the most part in God’s command to all mankind in Genesis 1 and 2 (multiply and rule… as a good steward), Genesis 12 (be a channel of blessing to the entire world), the Great Commandment (love God and, as a result, love people), and the Great Commission (act as witnesses of God’s good action and good news). Primarily speaking, the battle in the “spirit realm” is not our battle. Spiritual warfare is primarily dealing with evil here and now by those who do evil here and now.

5.  Our understanding of Spiritual Warfare should be built from the Bible. Certain individuals have popularized a form of “Christian Paganism.” There is a verse or two that suggest some sort of territorial spirit… but such references fall far short of the the fanciful imaginings that have sprung up. Such local demons (as well as the above-mentioned oppressive demons) generally have more in common with forms of Animism than with Biblical Christianity. I am not one who labels things as “pagan” to castigate them. Every culture has some truth in it. But when our doctrines are more firmly grounded in a different religious system than Biblical or Historical Christian Theology, there is reason for concern.

6.  Based on the Bible, Satan does appear to be a real being, and angels and demons also appear clearly to exist in an objective sense. Some have gone the other way, and have turned anything that is not judged as “natural” as metaphoric or mythic (mythic in this case meaning untrue stories). Yet the Bible does describe them as real, problematic, and active. The comment from C.S. Lewis seems appropriate.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” (The Screwtape Letters)

7.  The Bible appears to be pretty ambivalent about power encounter as well. The two biggest power encounter events in the Old Testament (Moses and the Pharoah, and Elijah and the Priests of Baal) both had mixed results in their ability to effect real and lasting change. Jesus did power encounter, yet often did such activities in secret (asking that the activity would be kept private) or even actively refusing to do signs and wonders. The mixed record of power encounter compared with (I believe) the much better record of love encounter (battling sinful prideful abusive self-centeredness with divine love) clearly tells us where our priorities should be.

8.  We need to be open-minded about what we see and experience. Satan and demons may not (in fact probably don’t) work the same today as they did centuries ago. Today, some Christians see mentally ill people and assume they have a demon. Since demons are thinking beings, unlike viruses, corrupted genes, or bacteria, their symptomology is likely to vary based on effectiveness in a given culture. Two thousand years ago, a demon oppressed (I prefer that term to demon possessed… personal thing) person was effective by being wild, scary, and insane. Today, such a person would be jailed or drugged to hinder their effectiveness. If demons are at work today in and through people, expect to see that action in ways that are effective today, not ways that render themselves useless in spiritual battle. On the other hand, being too quick to label what we don’t understand as being demonic is risky. Labeling does not reduce ignorance… it can actually enhance ignorance and cause greater trouble in the long-run.

9.  Our activities have eternal consequence. There is a battle going on and we, indeed, are a part of it. God’s word, God’s Spirit in our lives, and God’s love are vital equipments for us to incorporate into our lives. These are likely to make us more effective in spiritual warfare than prayer walking, prophecy events, and regional prayer exorcisms.

10.  Although our activities have eternal consequences, the battle (ultimately) is already won. We do not live in a dualistic universe. As Crowley says in Good Omens… God is playing solitaire, not chess. God is in control, even if He has allowed us to pilot the ship (poorly) for awhile. We are to be prepared for trouble, but not fearful for we are ultimately on the winning side and so we cannot (again ultimately) lose.

11. The war metaphor is important, but not necessarily the most important. The Bible appears to ultimately be a love story not a war chronicle. Recognizing the war metaphor is valuable… but it should be given its proper place. The book of Hosea appears to be a more important description of God’s relationship with us than the book of Joshua.

Anyway, these are my thoughts today.  Who knows… I may have new ideas tomorrow. One should be ready to learn and grow.

Power Encounter and Love Encounter… Elijah

I have been a bit down on “Power Encounter” as a missiological method… especially in this blogsite. Power Encounter has been popularized by Charles Kraft whose understanding has been affected by his work in West Africa. He found the animistic beliefs there made the people receptive to Christianity marketed in terms of power. And perhaps that is the best way to present God’s message in West Africa… I wouldn’t know. However, some people have sought to normalize power encounter to the point that some feel that it is a necessary or preliminary step to conversion. I don’t see this at all. Paul pointed out that Jews seek a sign and Greeks seek wisdom. To assume that everyone must go through a logical or philosophical argument of belief prior to conversion (based on Greek ideals) makes as much sense. But even within the Jewish ideal, the role of power encounter seems to be questionable as a missiological method. To demonstrate this, I would like to take one of the two clearest ex

The painting's story is from the Bible (I King...
Angel Caring for Elijah in Crisis. Image via Wikipedia

amples of power encounter in the Bible… Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

The story of Elijah’s encounter with the priests of Baal is in I Kings 18, while Elijah’s encounter with God is in I Kings 19. Please read these passages if you are uncertain about the details of this part of Elijah’s life.

Elijah won a power encounter with the priests of Baal. What were the results of this:

1. Over 400 priests of Baal were killed

2.  People on Mount Carmel fell facedown and said “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!”

3.  Apparently, prophets of God were able to minister somewhat more freely in the Northern Kingdom

These all sound pretty good, but there are some questionable points as well.

1. Having false priests executed would not be considered an acceptable missiological goal today.

2.  There is no real evidence that the people’s cries to God led to a long-term change of heart. The drift away from God continued in the Northern Kingdom.

3.  While King Ahab appeared to be more open to listening to God’s prophets, there was no major change, and his son was still a follower of Baal.

So, there is (in my mind) some clear doubt that power encounter is generally a good missions method. In fact, the use of power encounter (even in broad definition) is relatively uncommon in the Bible.

So let’s look further in this passage. If Elijah’s relationship with the priests of Baal was Power Encounter, then the relationship between God and Elijah was Love Encounter.

After the priests of Baal, Elijah went back to the royal court, probably part of his victory lap. But there he found out that Queen Jezebel was unmoved by the power encounter and planned to have Elijah killed (a reverse power encounter).

Elijah ran for his life. Some find this confusing or demonstrating lack of faith. But let’s be honest. Elijah did his most awesome miracle and thought he was done. He found out that he was wrong and could soon be killed. He had a CRISIS. His response was normal. It was a “normal response to an abnormal circumstance.”

How did God deal with Elijah? He dealt with him in a loving manner. Curiously, the way God did it was quite similar to the crisis response method taught by NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance). NOVA has a three step system:

          A.  Safety and Security

          B.  Ventilation and Validation

          C.  Prediction and Preparation

A.  Safety and Security. God allowed Elijah to escape a dangerous situation and go to where he felt emotionally secure and physically safe. Elijah was not running from God, he was running to Mount Horeb (Sinai). Elijah was running to God. God actually sent him an angel to feed him and give him drink so that he had the strength to continue his journey. During this time God did not speak to Elijah. Some would call this a “Ministry of Silence.” In a time of crisis, people need a time to get to a place of safety and feel emotionally secure. They also need some silence to begin to process their experience. This is exactly what God did. God gave him 41 days.

B.  Ventilation and Validation. Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb and wanted to die. God asked him “What are you doing here?” This gave Elijah an opportunity to ventilate. Elijah expressed his anger (with God), his fear, his aloneness, and his frustration. God did not correct him at this time. God did not get angry. He did not try to justify Himself to Elijah. Then God did something kind of strange. He showed His power to Elijah, but it was made clear that these signs of power were not God or where God was. Rather, it was in a small voice with Elijah. Again, God gave Elijah the opportunity to ventilate without being criticized. The first step was a “Ministry of Silence”, but this part was a “Ministry of Presence.”

C.  Prediction and Preparation. After giving Elijah ample time to ventilate, Elijah was ready. He had worked through the past, he was ready to look to the future. God gave him new tasks. He was to anoint two people as kings. Then he was to get a helper. Not only was this a new task, but this was to prepare him for new tasks (since being alone is difficult for someone in ministry). Only at this point does God correct some of Elijah’s bad thinking (not during the ventilation/validation stage) when He tells Elijah that he is not alone… there are others also faithful to God.

This is a Love Encounter. God revealed Himself to Elijah in a way that contrasted the fickle world around him. What were the results of this Love Encounter?

1.  Elijah was revitalized for ministry

2. A second prophet was brought in and trained for long-term ministry

This is definitely missiological.

Reiterating, there may be times when Power Encounter is useful, but there are questions about its real effectivity. But Love Encounter is definitely missiological effective.

Power Encounter, Love Encounter, and Pandemic Love

One of the two most popular posts on this blog is:

From Power Encounter to Love Encounter

In that post, I argued that the common missiological model of encounters, Truth Encounter, Allegiance Encounter, and Power Encounter, is flawed.

Antonine Plague

Power Encounter, the challenging of the powers of evil with the power of God for missiological purposes is often ambivalent. Its use is often unbiblical, its purpose is often obscure, and its results are often doubtful. Even the two best examples of Power Encounter in the Bible (Moses and the 10 plagues, and Elijah and the priests of Baal) seemed to have little to no long-term effect on the people the method was directed towards. This is not to say that Power Encounter is without its usefulness.

Rather, it is better to say that its usefulness is far less than “Love Encounter”. Love Encounter is the challenge of Christian’s in modeling Christlike love that stands in clear opposition to the shallow and self-serving condition the world calls love.

An excellent article, one of my favorites is “Pandemic Love” posted by Charles Moore. It is a fairly short article, but uses the example of the early church during times of plague (pandemic) as a model for how Christians should respond today. The following is an excerpt from the article. To see the entire article go to Pandemic Love, an article on the website of Plough Publishing (“The Plough”)

“Our time is not unlike the twilight years of the Roman empire. The god of materialism provides no hope, the structures and institutions of society that are meant to address social needs are indifferent and cold, and the current adversarial atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, and violence breed fear and loneliness.

In an age of impersonal medicine, fear of death, social isolation, and mounting catastrophe, today’s church has the opportunity to go beyond the precautions of quarantine and vaccine and trust in the ultimate protection: Love. Instead of retreating from the onslaught of pain and death, the church has the chance to demonstrate that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Instead of fear, which makes it difficult to look beyond the precautionary, followers of Christ can show the world that it is in giving our lives away that we find life. How we live and how we die is our message. If we would but dare more in faith, here and now, then perhaps, like with the early church, an outpouring of new life and real hope, instead of terror and flight, will sweep the earth.” 

From Power Encounter to Love Encounter

<A related, follow-on article is Power Encounter, Love Encounter, and Pandemic Love.>

In Missions there is often 3 types of “encounters” discussed. Charles Kraft, in particular, has a lot in this area and include:

  • Truth Encounter

    St. Boniface and Power Encounter
  • Allegiance Encounter
  • Power Encounter

Truth Encounter is the challenge of God’s truth against the various lies that are encountered in this world. Allegiance Encounter is a volitional challenge. As Joshua stated in the Bible, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This encounter involves making a choice to stand with God or with the enemy. Of these two, I would place Allegiance encounter as the more important. Salvation or conversion is an affective or volitional act. Correct knowledge is important but secondary.

This leaves power encounter. This is where the power of God is put to the test against the powers of darkness. Many missiologists consider this to be very important, but I THINK all would have to agree that the challenge of power is secondary to truth and allegiance. In fact, generally power encounter is considered simply preparatory for truth encounter and eventually allegiance encounter. In a sense, power encounter always happens in salvation since the power of God must be exercised to give freedom from the bondage of sin and the powers of this earth. However, that necessary form of power encounter is behind the scenes. It is not an encounter that happens on a “missiological” level. On a missiological level, the necessity or value of power encounter is less certain.

I used to be in favor of power encounter, and I suppose I don’t wholeheartedly reject it, but I have had growing qualms. I do have to add the caveat that some cultures may need power encounter more than others. Just as the Ancient Greeks valued truth and reason (making truth encounter, perhaps, more necessary), Animists are commonly focused on the spirit world as a source of power (both as a desirable and an undesirable thing). Perhaps missiological power encounter is more valuable here. Additionally, in TRULY unreached people groups, power encounter may be important to “open the door.”

In 1st millenium Frisia and Germany was St. Boniface, the “Apostle to the Germans”. A method he used was a form of power encounter. He would enter a pagan village, go to the sacred space, a holy tree, and cut it down. The argument was that if the gods Woden, Thor, or others of the Germanic pantheon, were so powerful, certainly they would have stopped St. Boniface from cutting down their tree… or at least smite him after the fact. This is power encounter through desecration.

This is not the only form of power encounter, and one could certainly argue that this wasn’t really a satisfactory test for power encounter. First, God’s power wasn’t really tested (unless one assumes that God was actually protecting St. Boniface from the other gods). Second, it may not be really testing the power of these gods but rather their allegiance to the sacred space. Just as Elijah, jokingly, suggested that Baal was asleep or too busy to get around to burning the sacrifice offered in that famous scene on Mount Carmel, inaction is not necessarily proof of lack of power. It could be lack of will or allegiance.

Regardless, however, history does point to an ugly side of power encounter. In the case of St. Boniface, desecrating a place without the concurrence of the local people appears to be without justification in the New Testament. 1st century Christians lived in a pluralistic society. They had plenty of opportunities to desecrate local pagan shrines. Yet they did not (Okay some did. There were reports of early Christians standing next to idols blaspheming pagan gods and spitting on the idols… but this does not appear to be a normative behavior). Additionally, history shows that when the Norsemen (Vikings) invaded Christian lands years after St. Boniface, they often targeted Christian structures such as churches and monasteries. This focus may have simply been due to the greater wealth and lesser defenses compared to other structures. Yet one could interpret their behavior as a reverse power encounter. And what would such circumstances demonstrate? Does God lack the power to prevent such desecration? (Some would obviously respond “Yes”.) On the other hand, it could be viewed as an allegiance encounter. God chose not to respond to the desecration is these “sacred spaces.” The end result is ambivalence. The fact that St. Boniface was eventually killed by pagans adds further question as to the insight gained from this experiment in power encounter.

The Bible also shows ambivalence to Power Encounter. The two greatest examples of power encounter in the Bible are Moses’ challenge to the sorcerers of Pharoah, and Elijah’s encounter with the priests of Baal. While Moses challenge proved to be a tactical victory, it did little to nothing as a cross-cultural mission encounter. With Elijah, the text also seems to express ambivalence regarding its effect. Jesus also did heal the demon-possessed. That could be looked at as a form of power encounter– battling with the forces of darkness, showing God is more powerful than the agents of evil. However, it is certainly not a classic form. First, the audience presumably already believed that God (Yahweh) was more powerful than the demons. Second, He often appeared to minimize that aspect of the encounter… such as minimizing the news regarding the healing, and requiring the demons to keep quiet as to His identity. It seems better to say that His healings were evidence of His relationship to God, partly, and His compassion for the suffering (love encounter).

With the propensity of charlatans of all sorts to peddle their wares… be they for God or against God, power encounter can point people away from God as much as point them towards God. Fake faith healers are likely to sour people to the truth, and may even lead people to question if God can actually heal.

Unfortunately, power encounter has often been mixed together with odd teachings like spiritual mapping. This does not make power encounter wrong of itself, but it does mean that power encounter often gets wasted on (what I believe to be) useless activities, such as attacking spiritual territories and strongholds. This seems to be more of a syncretistic Christo-paganism than genuine Biblical missions.

I would like to suggest that Love Encounter be moved into the top three, displacing power encounter at least one slot. Jesus did do miracles that were a form of power encounter. Jesus also shared truth that challenged the world’s truth. Jesus also challenged people to pick a side… follow Him or the world. Yet, in many ways, it was the love and self-sacrifice of Christ that most clearly challenged and contrasted the self-serving, shallow love and values that the world offers. In many cases, the love encounter with Christ was the most important to bring life change. I believe that this has not changed. There are times where Power Encounter may be beneficial. But Love Encounter is always valuable.